Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Why Are You Running Away??

And I can feel... one of my turns coming on.-Pink Floyd

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Like all children of our era, we had prodigious imaginations.

All we needed was a stage to act out our wild imaginings.

The picnic table, for example, became a life raft out on the empty sea whereon two piteous shipwreck survivors (my sisters) forlornly awaited rescue when suddenly a hideous many-armed sea creature (me, under the table) attempted to grab them and drag them under the murky waters.

Result: much screaming and dancing about on top of the table for them and much maniacal thrashing about and gleeful arm waving for the sea monster.

Or there was a game, "Ghost," always played on moonlit summer nights where the best hiding place could often be inside a shadow, and victims might stroll haplessly by.

Let me say, at this point, that our parents did not help by sticking a tiny black and white t.v. in my bedroom and leaving us to watch Fantastic Features in said darkened room on a Saturday night.

We didn't need that kind of encouragement.

Not all our playlets were horror-oriented but many (lots) were.

Hammer Films' Dracula movies throughout the sixties were the icing on the cake. Admiring Christopher Lee, I thought I would make a pretty good vampire.

My oldest daughter tells this part of the story better than I do:

Not sure what life lessons there are here: facing your fears maybe, how to scar your children irreparably more likely, fun and games and other distractions perhaps.

Or, in the words of a great philosopher: "We coulda had fun sometimes...ummmhmmmm."

Come to think of it, we did.

Monday, June 18, 2018

How I Met Your Father

For Tambrey Ringer Kinley

I never told you about my good friend, Danny "Boone" Patton.

Our parents were friends; hangin' out, card playin' buddies.

Boone was the same age as my sister Brenda and from a young age, after he got his first guitar, it was quite apparent that this boy could play.

And so he would play and I (not yet being the guitar prodigy that I am now) would sing. In fact if it was on the radio, we could probably perform it.

Anyway, years passed and we got to be plumb-growed boys in our twenties with families of our own when we began to get together again and play (I had a guitar by this time and could second  my friend).

Sometimes we gathered together with family. but lots of times it would just be us two.

We would pop by one another's house with a "Have you heard this one?" or a "This is a cool song."

And so we were sitting in my bedroom one afternoon playing an Eagles song, "Peaceful Easy Feelin'" maybe or one of those.

And my sister Deb appears in the doorway with a strange fella in tow. She introduces him and leaves him with us while she wanders off to hang with my wife and kids.

Paul, his name was, sat on the bed with us and asked if we minded his singing along with the Eagles tune, we had been playing.

Sure, we said, not having heard this guy sing or even knowing if he could sing.

We commenced and when he opened his mouth to sing, we nearly fell off our guitars. Paul could sing.

Anyhow we now had us a lead singer so to speak, and when Deb and Boone and I would blend our voices with his, the harmonies were amazing.

And I'm not bragging, you can ask anybody who ever heard us.

Matter of fact, even if nobody had ever heard us play, it was just a blast to play together.

Boone was already an honorary Tolar. He was "make you laugh your drink through your nose" funny.

Paul was adopted immediately and we built quite a repertoire of songs, though we never performed publicly per se, just with friends, and at family gatherings.

And I think each of us felt it, the joy of making music together, the sheer fun and silliness of it.

Fine times. After I moved away, the times weren't nearly so frequent but no matter the length of time gone by, there was never a time when we got back together and it was as though we had stepped out of the room ("a pause for the cause," you might say)for a moment and simply returned to pick up our guitars to play some more. 

The last time I went to visit Paul, we played. Or I played, on his Charvel acoustic-electric with the cherry sunburst finish, and he sang, every one of the old songs we could remember, our voices still blending in as sweet  a sound as always.

Not a lot of precise detail in the Bible about heaven. But I can't help thinking, God having given us the gift of music, that along with the new songs we are promised there will be time enough throughout eternity to break out the guitars and sing some of the old ones as well.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Ruining It For Everyone

Our parents (especially our mom) were never ones to "spare the rod."

Nonetheless, we got away (my sisters, brother and I) with a whole metric ton of crap we should have received a switching for.

Deb reminded me of this, when she read of the tree-climbing incident. She remembers that we took a beating when all Mom really did was scold us very hard about the dangers of tree climbing.

But since my Lil Sis was always (no really, I mean always) into something, she remembers a lot of butt-whippings. The wicked flee where no one pursues, or something like that.

I mean let's be honest. Mother was a stay-at-home mom but do you really believe that she could have been on top of everything four rowdies like us were into?

Not at all likely, so many of my childhood memories consist of us getting away with some pretty epic stuff.

It was a wonderful time.

I will say, looking back, that there may have been the occasional miscarriage of justice.

Take the Cowboy Incident.

By way of background let me explain that polio was a devastating and much feared childhood disease at the time. Everyone knew of families that suffered the heart-rending results of polio.

I don't recall much at all about it except that it always occurred (I believe) with the onset of a high fever, so that logically (or perhaps not) overheating was to be avoided at all costs.

And so it was that one warm (it's the South, so that that term is relative) summer evening, I was riding my imaginary horse across the high plains of the American West. Tracking down bad guys, as nearly as I can recall. Like Buchanan ( background singing: Randolph Scott), I rode alone.

Suddenly there was this shrill shrieking in the distance. Thinking myself ambushed by murderous Native Americans, I dove for cover, pulling my trusty six-shooter.

Something much more to be feared than native hostiles met my sight as I looked around for the source of the caterwauling: Mom striding across the yard with a determined look on her face.

"What are you doing, hot as it is, with all those clothes on?"

I was dressed as I imagined any cowboy might be, in jeans, t-shirt, a flannel shirt and a denim jacket. Indeed Randolph Scott himself never looked so spiffy or decked out to deal with whatever despicable villains I might encounter.

"I'm PLAYIN,'" I whined.

"Get all that stuff off right now!" she insisted.

"But I'm a COWBOY!" I defended myself.

She replied with a swat to the behind and a firm admonition to remove the excess clothing at  once lest I become a victim of polio.

This was very serious stuff, as I pointed out, though I will admit that my thoughts were not focused at all  on her watchcare over her child (me) but instead how she had ruined my perfectly good time and how I (at the time) hated her.

Not like you haven't been there at some point in your younger years so stop looking down your nose as though you haven't.

It was all quite unfair to my way of thinking.

You know my dad put it all into perspective some time later.

Mom was the main enforcer in our family, so Daddy would only intervene when he perhaps thought we weren't getting the point.

So maybe once a year or so, he would round up us three oldest and apply his belt a lick or two to the appropriate area. When my sister Brenda complained once that she hadn't been doing anything, he replied:

"Then this is for the things I didn't catch you doing."

You know there's a kind of rough frontier justice to that statement that I think even Randolph Scott could appreciate.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Hey, Whose Shoes Are These?

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; -1 Corinthians 13:4-5

Let me begin by noting that subtlety is often lost on the young. Thus it was for me, at any rate,

So when I was eighteen, I fell in love.

At least, I had tender feelings for the young woman in question, which to my eighteen-year-old mind was the same thing as being in love.

My father, having no doubt had more practical experience about most things including love, disagreed.

"Practical" describes much about my dad and his view of things.

So he told me a story to demonstrate that my view of love was, how shall I say, im-practical.

"Suppose you do get married (which was the supposition that started this conversation)," he said, "and suppose you have a couple of kids. And then suppose that your shoes wear out and you need new shoes to wear to work. But suppose that your kids need shoes too, but you can only afford shoes for them or shoes for you. Who gets the shoes?"

As I mentioned, I was a tender-hearted young fellow and kind of sentimental (blame all those episodes of "Lassie," especially the ones with little Timmy).

And I replied immediately, "Why the kids of course." I must have pictured poor little dirty-faced barefoot urchins as I uttered these words.

Dad pounced, just as immediately. "Wrong! You need those shoes to go to work so your family don't starve!"

Now Daddy, while being a stern man, never ever called us names or spoke unkindly to us. But thinking back, I believe the word "Dumb-ass!" was clearly implied in his tone of voice.

Which I was, let's face it.

I was also resentful of his refusing to recognize when a young man is in love or that young man's desire to "be with the woman I love," even if it means giving up the throne of England.

Well, not really that last part, but you understand the depth of feeling there.

But depth of feeling is not really what it is all about, right?

Important, yes, but so is respect for the other and a heart-felt desire for their good which includes setting aside our own good at times.

I was quite a bit older than eighteen before I achieved a capacity for anything approaching that level of love.

Not to say good times weren't had. There were those tender feelings I spoke of.

And, as nearly as I can recall, the kids were never forced to go barefoot.

So take that, Old Man.

Ummm, you were talking about shoes, right?

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Careful With That Baton, Eugene

Is it true that if your daughters are near in birth order that when you buy something for one, you must purchase the exact same thing for the other?

This seems to have been a hard and fast rule in our household.

Mom sewed clothes for us kids. So when Brenda got a poodle skirt (Google it, I'm too tired to explain it), Deb also got one.This was the practice in all that I can remember.

So much so that passing strangers would ask if they were twins.

And so it was with the batons.

Now Dad had a Super8 video camera, so all I am about to say is recorded for posterity. Rod has the tapes so he can back me up.

You may remember these recording devices. Their main purpose seems to have been to record your children running so you can play it backwards for unsuspecting (and hapless) onlookers.

Pretty funny stuff (the first twelve or thirteen times you viewed it).

I really don't remember what I got I got that Christmas.

I do recall that we were at Grandma and Grandpa Trump's house on the hill above the Oakland Ave. fire station in Helena.

And that Rod got a football helmet. And the girls got batons. You know, those stick thingies that drum majorettes twirl with their fingers?

Now twirling is an art that only the truly dedicated can master. In  fact only one girl in our whole school could twirl the baton. Especially impressive when she would light both ends on fire.

So my sisters, being young children, got batons with handles on them. With a little wrist action you could actually make them spin around. And so they did. For our dad and his camera.

And one of the fond and hilarious memories of my childhood is of these two, lips pursed with intense concentration, showing off their twirling (?) skills for the camera.

And this scene is particularly memorable because their facial expressions are the exact mirror of Mom's when she would go in swimming. Which reflected a firm determination to keep her head, face, and freshly do-ed hair from getting damp.

Yeah, and that football helmet came in handy, by the way, when our little brother wandered into the scene and there was a silent rat-tat-tat of metal bouncing off plastic.

Which is even funnier when played backwards.

I just want to say (in his defense) that any (if any) questionable deeds carried out by Rod in later years can be laid directly at the doors of the baton-wielding maniac almost-twin sisters, Debi and Brenda.

Anyhow, if you buy batons for your daughters, buy their little brother a football helmet.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

How Not To Climb A Tree

...and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

There was this elm tree at the corner of our yard next to the driveway.

A double elm tree really, forking from the base to form two separate trees.

There was one particularly low-hanging  branch, accessible if you stood in the fork, which allowed an adventurous youngster to climb up into what seemed a green and leafy wonderland.

You could see the longest way from its uppermost branches (which I admit I had to work up my nerve to scale), and from the very tip-top you could feel the tree swaying in the wind. Very scary but also very cool.

My Lil Sis thought this looked cool as well but, being six years younger than I, was unable to reach that first branch.

So one day, after questioning her closely and being assured of her resolve to conquer at least the lower reaches of our vegetative jungle gym, I gave her a boost to the lowest branch.

There was another large branch, maybe four or five feet above the grass of our yard, which made a comfortable perch, where one could dangle one's legs and ride what ever breeze happened to be blowing.

This was the place where Deb (not desiring to climb any higher) decided to park herself while I stood on the ground offering words of encouragement (or dares to climb higher, which I suppose is the story she would tell, though I am sure that story is mere delusion).

What happened next is not certain except the end result.

I imagine that a gust of wind came along and she perhaps lost her nerve and certainly her balance and, like Humpty Dumpty (or the walls of Jericho), came a-tumbling down.

Lying flat on her back, Deb seemed unhurt but out of wind so I proceeded (by pulling up on her middle section) to pump air back into her.

In repayment for which kind act she used her first full breath to squall out loudly (as though she were dying, which she was not), which brought Mom rushing from the house.

By this time, Deb was sitting up, still bawling, and sobbed out to our mother that I had pushed(?!?!) her from the tree.

I responded indignantly (as the victims of false accusation will do) and the earnestness of my protestations being apparent, nothing further ensued.

Other that a stern admonition to Lil Sis not to be climbing any more trees and to myself not to aid, encourage, abet or in any other way incite or induce her in the climbing of any more trees.

Looking back, I hold no hateful grudge against her for her treacherous accusations but view it as only the hysterical reaction of a small child to a frightening experience.

Besides the which, I guess it made up for all the stuff I did do, for which she never ratted me out.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

When You're Weary, Feelin' Small

An infamous incident, which I relate mainly because it so annoyed my sister and my wife at the time.

When I was 23, I totaled my car and dang near totaled myself in a "bad wreck." Six months in a leg cast and forced inactivity was the result.

So I was puzzled and pleased when my friend John Griffin came by the house one Friday evening and said, "Come go with me."

"Where to?"

"Your Uncle John's house."

Now Uncle John was the husband of my Aunt Ona (one of my mom's sisters; my favorite) and they both were people of musical
ability. And every Friday night they would jam and practice for music shows at various community centers in the area.

I credit these Friday night jam sessions with rekindling my love of playing music.

It didn't take long, after having heard Deb and I sing and play with our cousin Mike, that someone came up with the idea that we should form an opening act, as it were, for the main country music show.

And it didn't take me long to remember that I had a good friend Carroll (Oneida Flash) Casey who was a very accomplished drummer.

It was a cool, fun little group of kids (Deb was only 16 I think and Mike a year younger) and our audiences loved us and our music.

So it happened that on a late Friday evening on the way  home from a Friday night music session, we were cruising down a two lane blacktop when the Flash and I experienced a call of nature.

Being country boys, we pulled over, on a little bridge and raised the level of the creek a bit.

The womenfolk professed to be mortified at our uncouth behavior, though like true gentlemen, we kept out backs to the car (and them, of course) the whole time.

My significant other was upset enough to hold a "hateful grudge" for a day or two. She got over it.

Deb, being a Tolar, was annoyed at first over the perceived disrespect but soon added the incident to her arsenal of insults whenever we would begin to list one another's faults.

Flash and I named the affair "The Bridge Over Troubled Waters."

And you know, we never did figure out why our "dates" were so mad at us.

I personally think it's because they were jealous.

But to this day, I cannot hear Simon and Garfunkel without being transported back to a simpler time; a time when I was young, a time when I was finding out I was good at this music thing and could bring enjoyment to my listeners, When making music together was a new and fine thing.

A time when old boys could pee over the railing of a bridge on a moonlit summer night in Arkansas.